Flying the Flag for Bitless Driving (Dr Cook Bitless Bridle)

by Laura

I have been called mad, brave, dangerous, an accident waiting to happen and even an inspiration...

Some people think I am "lucky Taz is so placid / doesn’t spook"...
Some say I would have no chance if she "took off"...
Some people are "full of admiration" for what I do.

... so just what on earth do we do?

We drive - and Taz is wearing an open bitless bridle!

She has had a Dr Cook's Bitless Bridle (BB) since 2000. When I got it I did not know anyone else who rode bitless (apart from English / German hackamores) never mind drive. Taz had been wearing a bit when she came to me and for about our first year together... but, along with saddles, men and whips, she had issues with it! We tried a lot of things in an effort to change her views of humans and tack to try and create positive associations for her. Until Taz came into my life I was a fairly "conventional" rider / horse owner... but she challenged me to think "outside the box" as "conventional" just did not work with her.

Laura driving Taz at EMW sanctuaries open dayPart of that process was to consider what I thought before was impossible... take the bit out but not use the English / German hackamore. Although I was aware of them I was also aware of the reputation for potential severity... and was aware I was in no way a good enough rider to be sure I would not cause her pain with one. I can't remember how I came across the information about the crossunder bridles... but I'm sure glad I did and I think so is Taz.

I was amazed at the way she responded with it on... from tackling canters with trepidation because of Taz’s tendency to at times evade and run off with me I at last became more confident as she appeared to relax more in canter and actually respond! Of course the headgear is not the only aid for changes of pace? - but we are all realistic enough to know when excitement / emotion is involved headgear sure does help a wee bit! (sorry no pun intended…) I think that I was removing something she had a mental block against.

As part of the total rehabilitation process we had done lots of long reining and we carried on with the BB. I had a little experience of driving and had enjoyed it so the process more just evolved... got a cheapie harness and gradually we got through the process of adapting to pulling things etc over months.

We did try blinkers but Taz is so nosy she just kept looking around more to see everything. My principle anyway was I would rather a horse be happy with what’s behind it rather than hide it. Since she was so happy and "controllable" in the BB I just kept on with it.

The main problem however was that no one would teach me with her in it! So I just had to learn as I had most everything else... read a lot, ask questions, go watch other people then just apply thought and common sense! I just followed the rest of the general driving process - ignoring only the part about bits / blinkers being absolutely necessary.

Taz pulled logs, tyres and harrows as well as the exercise cart and despite a few hiccups along the way we both developed more and more confidence.

People who watched and knew Taz were happy to come out and about with us. Some brave souls even letting their children come with me over the years - and despite dire predictions we have not injured or killed anyone yet! We have even taken Santa and his fairy to the local nursery - Taz stood like a rock as all the children said hello, she was in her element with them.

As part of my "learning process" I had watched and helped out at driving club events and considered it only a dream of ever taking part, it was difficult enough finding someone who did not immediately dismiss the idea that any horse could ever drive bitless. I was particularly interested in driving trials.

However in 2005 I was lucky enough to meet a local LHHI near our new yard who, although sceptical, was prepared to give me a chance. She had seen Taz ridden in the BB before she, or I, had mentioned driving! We had some lessons with her and she also drove Taz; her comments were encouraging.

I had also mentioned the BB to someone I was aware was a driving trials enthusiast, a BDS official and a riding / driving trainer. She had expressed an interest in learning about it and I got in touch with her to see what she thought. She too was encouraging and I had some lessons with her as well.

I was a member of a driving trials club and had stewarded for all the indoor season, then after some conversations with the chairman, and with the support of instructors, I was allowed to take part in an indoor event HC. We were ecstatic and nervous all at the same time - my thoughts / emotions were in roller coaster mode. With Taz having only driven out with one other turnout, only ever been indoors once, and schooled in a school not a lot, all we wanted was a calm outing! We were very aware that all it would take would be one little hint of excitement / spirit ….. and the perception would be it was because she had no bit in.

No second chances

I was also very aware that as S was grooming for me she would be supporting me highly visibly; if anything went wrong her reputation could take quite a knock – she was putting a lot of faith in us.

Well you can see the results of the day in the video……. I let Taz down a couple of times being senile and almost forgetting the way in the obstacles. Bless her she coped well with my indecision!

As expected there were critics - but there were also supporters amongst the other drivers who said we did a good job for a novice first outing ever. We were sooo pleased.

I was even more pleased after we finished as S invited us to take part in the driving demonstration at the Three Counties Show in the summer. [See Laura's article about the Three Counties Driving Demo]

And truly delighted when I found out that this lovely supporter was a National Driving Trials Grand Prix participant - and that both my instructors wanted to get bitless driving bridles for their ponies!

See the videos of Laura & Taz at the Driving Trials (2006)

<<back to Articles Index

Home | Instructors | ORDER | Articles | SEARCH | FAQ | Events | Bitless Benefits | Comparisons | Fear of the Bit | Problems solved | Sizes & Measuring | Price List | Contact Us | Feedback | Questionnaire | Gallery | Links | Terms & Conditions

Website designed, maintained and hosted by Flashgranny

Welfare - Performance - Safety - Pleasure

Bitless Bridle UK